By: Kelly McDonald
The sun peeks over the east mountains as we begin our morning walk. Our long shadows reach toward the west as we, man and dog, start this regular regimen, tethered together, enjoying the cool air that will probably become blistering hot as soon as the sun rises directly overhead. I’m glad we can do this now, at this early hour, enjoying the morning sounds, watching the other tethered teams passing us on the street. Later in the day, such a walk is too draining, one of us covered with sweat and the other panting. It’s better to sit in the easy chair in the afternoon, or lay on the rug, enjoying the cool blast of air conditioning keeping the summer heat at bay.
We’ve been following this routine for several months now. The leash connects us, bringing our two worlds together. During our walk, we pass other humans, some running, others walking their own dogs on leashes. For the dog’s world, it means attentively watching these other dogs, sometimes staring at them, giving an occasional bark of greeting. And then there are the cats, those scheming creatures, sauntering near the street, knowing that a dog on a leash is no threat to their own morning jaunts.
Here comes a team tethered together ahead of us, walking our direction down the same side of the street. We move to the other side to avoid any unwelcome encounters. As we pass, man waves to the other, and dog glares toward his counterpart, tugging hard on the leash.
What are those things up ahead? Blackbirds? They’re cleaning up after some accidental spilling of treats, or maybe feasting on the remains of a child’s sandwich. A bark sends them screaming into the air. Speaking of children, several whiz past us on bicycles, coming all too close, forcing us to jump out of the way. It will be nice when they are back in school. We won’t need to be so attentive of a collision.
As we trek past a large pasture in the middle of our neighborhood, some horses, who normally graze at a distant point in the field, are standing next to the fence. We stop to admire them. I reach through the fence, and one horse reaches out, sniffs, then licks me.
We arrive at the distant point of our morning walk, a little lending library where a young couple and their child look through the books. We then turn down a side road to follow the main path back toward home. There are more cars on this final street, so we both keep to the sidewalk, occasionally cooling ourselves with a sprint through lawn sprinklers soaking the sidewalk as we pass.
By now, the sun is well over the mountain, heating us up as we scurry from one shadow of trees to the next. But, as we near home, the sidewalk has been broken up and is now being replaced, and this drives us back out into the street. We walk closely together now, no slack on the leash, making sure we’re out of the way of any oncoming cars speeding toward us.
As we trek closer to the finish of this morning’s walk, I look up and see a strange sight. A wire stretches across the road, high above the pavement, from an electrical pole on the far side of the street to one on the near side. Something scampers across the wire—a squirrel! I bark at the rodent, then look back at my companion to see if he is watching the unfolding spectacle above. He’s not! Sometimes I wonder if he’s still asleep when we walk. I bark at him and then raise my eyes up at the wire. Finally, he looks up and sees the squirrel, then speaks to me with those cryptic noises he makes. I hear him voice the sound which I recognize as my name, “Atlas”, but I have no idea what else he is trying to tell me. I simply grin, my tongue hanging out, panting, and glance back at him whenever I hear that pleasant familiar sound.
The squirrel reaches the pole on our side of the street, and we move forward in our walk, finally reaching our front door. I pant contentedly and stretch out on the rug in the cool air-conditioned breeze. My walking companion removes his shoes then sits down as we, dog and man, rest together.